A 5-stage model for shared blockchain processes

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In our previous post, we outlined four major challenges of the interorganizational processes blockchain enables. To address those challenges, organizations should consider these five steps, which in many cases directly extend existing industry practice for private processes.

blockchain interorganizational process pattern strategies

Let’s return to our example of health records on a blockchain. An electronic health record (EHR) stored on a blockchain would securely share only the data that each party is permitted to see. Adding new test results to the record might automatically schedule an appointment with the patient depending on the test result. Once the appointment is completed, the notes and follow-up actions are added indelibly to the EHR for future reference. This example can illustrate each of the patterns:

1. Discover network processes

With processes that exist across organizational boundaries, there is a need for participants to work together to design flows so that there is an agreement about their responsibilities and points of interaction. This is very similar to the way that process discovery happens within a single organization today. For example, IBM Blueworks Live can equally be applied to interorganizational processes. In particular, the collaborative modeling capabilities of a cloud-based platform fit well with the needs of process discovery between organizations.

2. Control blockchain interaction

There are many scenarios in which a private process — one that is internal to a single organization — needs to interact with a blockchain. Typically, these interactions involve submitting a transaction to the ledger or responding to a change in state. For example, how does a medical lab attach test results to a patient record, and how is a hospital notified of new results? Technically, a process automation platform, such as IBM Business Process Manager, interacts with the blockchain as it would any other enterprise application or system of record. Integrating IBM BPM with IBM Blockchain is performed by remote system calls or by responding to event notifications.

3. Automate with smart contracts

This class of solutions deals with situations where the smart contract encodes a digital business process that is executed on the blockchain. Many of the existing process automation paradigms are directly applicable to this idea. For example, decision automation technologies, such as IBM Operational Decision Manager, allow a business policy to be defined in a pseudo-natural language as opposed to code. This means that business experts or lawyers can author and amend process logic. Using this idea, the rule encoding that determines what to do for certain medical test results can be understood by non-programmers.

4. Monitor the whole network

Accepting that a business process now spans both internal systems and a blockchain, there is a need to connect the dots. Suppose an organization wants to monitor the average time taken from a biopsy is taken at a hospital until results are shared with the patient. The end-to-end view of a process, spanning hospital and lab systems, can be achieved by using a process analytics capability. This enables identification of exceptional situations that require action orwith real-time management information about the status of a process.

5. Optimize and govern the network

Finally, blockchains introduce some new business processes that didn’t exist before. First of all, the ledger is a trusted source that can be used to optimize the network or one’s private interactions with it. For example, one might be able to tweak task routing rules based on prior performance. Secondly, new blockchain support processes are expected. For example, how does a new medical lab join the network? One would expect certain legal and professional proofs to be supplied before they could start work.

Enterprises should learn this new model of ecosystem-based processes. It’s important to start now to develop a suitable process architecture that is ready to embrace blockchain.

Learn more about IBM Blockchain.

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